Grove Patterson Academy, one of Toledo Public Schools' two elementary magnet schools, plans to add an eighth grade next year to accommodate currently enrolled seventh graders, district officials said.
“The parents there would like us to do it, and we want to keep those students, and it's a good concept to make it continuous for seventh and eighth grade as we try to sort out the academy model,” said Board of Education President Peter Silverman. “We think it's a good approach to take.”
The academy, at 3020 Marvin Ave. near Westgate, opened in 1999 with 220 pupils in kindergarten through fourth grade chosen by a districtwide lottery. School officials planned to add a grade each year until sixth grade.
But last year many parents of sixth graders said they wanted an academy option for their children's junior high years. The board approved buying a portable classroom to make room for the students to remain at the West Toledo school.
The district will put another portable at Grove Patterson to accommodate the eighth graders in the fall and hire one teacher to teach the core subjects, said Gretchen Bueter, the academy principal. The portable will be one the district currently owns and isn't needed at its current location, she said.
Gary Sautter, the acting assistant business manager, said the cost to move a portable is less than $20,000.
Fifteen students are enrolled in seventh grade at the academy this year and 44 are in sixth grade. Ms. Bueter said. Next year's seventh and eighth grade classes will accommodate 22 students each.
“Responses show we'll be filling one classroom for each,” she said.
The junior high-age students attend their core academic subjects at the academy but are bused to the former DeVilbiss Academic and Technology Center, 3301 Upton Ave., for physical education, art, and music.
With the district facing a $15 million to $24 million projected budget deficit next year and considering layoffs to balance its budget, Ms. Bueter said she could understand potential criticism for the addition of a class and a teacher at the academy. “I understand where everybody is coming from,” she said. “That was a directive that was given, that we will have eighth grade.”
Mr. Silverman said while the district needs to make some cuts for the 2003-2004 year, the administration and the board also want to consider programmatic changes to improve the district's academics.
“We are going to continue to make changes to the school district to make it more attractive,” Mr. Silverman said. “Even though we're cutting, we're going to try and focus on changes we need to make to make the system more responsive and more effective.”
Linda Whittington-Clark, whose seventh-grade son has attended the academy for two years, said with nearly two dozen students leaving the academy for private schools last year, the district needs to add the eighth grade to keep more children in the district.
Besides, she said, the school works. “The parents there are very concerned about their children's educations,” said Dr. Whittington-Clark, chairman of the parent organization's subcommittee for seventh and eighth grade. “This is like the last stop before we go to the private schools. We want this kind of specialized small classes, special emphasis on a second language and the ability to have one-on-one interaction with the teacher and the principal.”
In October, Grove Patterson Academy students passed the fourth-grade reading proficiency test at the third-highest rate in the district behind Beverly and Elmhurst.
In March, 2002, the school's fourth and sixth-grade scores on all five subject tests were well above - sometimes more than double - the districtwide averages.
In addition, attendance was 96 percent, compared to a district average of 91 percent.